Singaporean admitted to acting as nominee for 3 foreigners to buy residential property

·Senior Reporter
·4-min read
Belgravia Villas (PHOTO: Google Street View)
Belgravia Villas (PHOTO: Google Street View)

UPDATE: Story updated to reflect Song Fanrong's jail sentence imposed on 13 January 2022.

SINGAPORE — A Singaporean woman admitted on Tuesday (14 December) to buying residential property on behalf of three Chinese nationals and holding it on trust.

Song Fanrong, 49, received $1.8 million from one of the purchasers, Chinese national Wang Chen, for the purchase of a unit at Belgravia Villas, a freehold private residential cluster housing estate at Belgravia Drive.

The housing estate, developed by Fairview Development, was not classified as non-restricted residential properties under the Residential Property Act, and thus its units were not allowed to be held in trust.

Song pleaded guilty to one out of three counts of buying an estate in a residential property that is not non-restricted residential property with the intention of holding the said property in trust for a foreigner. Two other counts of the same nature, in relation to the other two foreigners, will be considered for her sentencing.

On 13 January 2022, Song was jailed for two weeks in the State Courts.

S&P agreements defaulted after beneficiaries stopped paying

In 2014, Song had acted as a nominee for the three Chinese nationals to purchase properties in Belgravia Villas. She acted as the purchaser executing the sale and purchase (S&P) agreement with the developer, but the funds for the purchase price were paid for by the various beneficiaries, for whom Song held the respective property on trust in her name.

The beneficiaries subsequently stopped paying for the properties, and thus all three S&P agreements were defaulted on as their progressive payments became unpaid.

Under the Residential Property Act, the limited supply of landed residential properties in Singapore are to remain in the primary preserve of Singaporeans, while only a select few foreigners who have demonstrated social commitment and made significant contribution to Singapore could own landed homes.

The landed properties are denoted as restricted properties. No citizen or approved purchaser is allowed to purchase or acquire any estate or interest in restricted residential property as a nominee of any foreign person, with the intention to hold it in trust for the foreign person.

According to the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) guidelines, foreigners who wish to purchase landed residential properties have to submit an application to the Land Dealings Approval Unit at the SLA.

Offered to transfer property ownership after citizenship obtained

In 2013, Song got to know Wang, who purportedly wanted to immigrate to Singapore and own his own residence here. Wang told Song his intention and Song recommended Belgravia Villas to him.

She told him that he would not be eligible to buy property as he was a foreigner, but offered to buy the property on his behalf. She also offered to transfer the ownership of property to him once he obtained his Singapore citizenship.

Wang accepted the offer and signed a trust agreement which stated that he was the buyer and actual owner of the property, while Song was a mere trustee.

The agreement also stated that Song was buying the property on behalf of Wang as he was not qualified, and that Wang was to bear all costs in relation to the property and make payment by transferring all the monies to Song’s bank account in China.

Parties signed the agreement on 22 September 2014 and Wang transferred $1.8 million to Song. The purchase price of the Belgravia Villas property was $3,475,000.

On 23 August 2017, the Commercial Affairs Department received a report from the SLA against Song, informing that she had purchased four semi-detached properties at Belgravia Villas.

After the three S&P agreements were defaulted on, Fairview Developments deducted the contractual penalties, for the default of the S&P contracts for the Belgravia properties, from the sums already paid by the beneficiaries through Song.

Song and the beneficiaries’ rights to the properties were then extinguished. Fairview Developments surrendered the remaining monies, amounting to $1,596,797.97, which was seized by the Commercial Affairs Department on 11 January 2018.

Lawyer says woman had no intention to profit

Song’s lawyer Alain Abraham Johns said that she had no intention to profit from the transactions and that the foreigners had no intention to speculate on property in Singapore, as all three had intended to apply for Singapore citizenship. All three had been her friends, said the lawyer.

Song, who is a bankrupt, had no dishonest attention, added the lawyer, who asked for a jail term of below a month.

She will return to court on 5 January, and faces up to three years' jail and/or a fine of up to $100,000.

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